Category Archives: Playlist

2013: Year In Review

What a year.  Most of my favorite artists added some soul, some funk, some humanity to their usual cold and sad sounds.  It was the year of the big release, the unleashing of the hype monster.  Seemingly everyone and their grandmother released something new this year and it was just a glorious and embarrassing goldmine for us music-Smaugs.  Looking back on a great year as my ears already enjoy 2014.

My Favorite Albums of 2013:

1. Empire of the Sun: Ice On The Dune
Nothing catchier or more joyful blessed my life all year.

2. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
The most epic album of the year.

3. nine inch nails: Hesitation Marks
A return to form for Trent and a reaffirmation of rabid fandom for me.

4. Arcade Fire: Reflektor
The biggest grower of the year…just give it a chance.

5. Lady Gaga: ARTPOP
Most underrated “big” album of the year, absolute bangers from start to finish.

6. Queens of the Stone Age: …Like Clockwork
Cocksure (hee hee) swaggering sexy rock and fucking roll.

7. Lorde: Pure Heroine
Newbie of the year with an honest-to-goodness perfect set of tunes.

8. Kanye West: Yeezus
The biggest mindfuck, the biggest statement, and one of the hardest albums of 2013.

9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Mosquito
Possibly their worst album, but with such a discography, this rabid subterranean creepfest slays.

10. KT Tunstall: invisible empire // crescent moon
It’s about her late father and ex-hubby, so you know you’re in for some gorgeous heartbreak.

11. Bruno Mars: Unorthodox Jukebox
Perfect pop album.  Period.

12. how to destroy angels: welcome oblivion
Trent’s other release of the year, a quieter, more feminine affair.

13. Goldfrapp: Tales of Us
Sultry and languid, perfect for secret late night debauchery or a quiet come-down.

14. Tegan and Sara: Heartthrob
2013’s catchiest, prettiest pop-mindfuck dedicated to hearts and heartbreak.

15. Disclosure: Settle
The soundtrack to the permanent Uniqlo store in my heart.

16. Savages: Silence Yourself
Ferocious debut from a group of lasses with bigger, brasher thrash-balls than both Kanye and Trent.

17. The Strokes: Comedown Machine
A solid send-off(?) set from one of my favorite bands of the ’00s.

18. OneRepublic: Native
We liked “Counting Stars” a year ago…

19. Imagine Dragons: Night Visions
They don’t know who they want to be and every song sounds like another band, but they’re the best damn tribute band of the year.

20. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
Now that they’re singing about death and sad stuff, I can finally relate to these chaps.

21. Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience, Part 1
This bloated album only receives placement because of “Mirrors”, its only reason for existing.

22. Austra: Olympia
I loved her from the moment she sang her first note in concert, so this set — however underwhelming or same-same — is still welcome.

Not Released in 2013 But Still Dominated My Life:

1. Ellie Goulding: Halcyon
Thank you, Skrillex, for breaking her heart, because this is a gigantic, emotional wubby ride.

2. Jessie Ware: Devotion
Pure, utter talent and class from this ’90s throwback queen.

Yeah, that’s right.  I only listed 24 albums.  Not 20.  Not 25.  I’m a rebel.  On to the songs…  These are the tracks that ruled my life for 12 months.  Ranking was tricky:  I based this purely on iTunes/iPod combined play count.  Not radio eargasms, not streaming on YouTube, not clicking “Back” to repeat a song and thus losing the extra count.  “Radioactive” should be higher.  Alas, it is a cruel world.  You all know how to use YouTube or whatever streaming-shit the kids are into these days, so I hope you don’t mind doing the leg work and searching for these yourself.  Embedding links?  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

My Favorite Songs of 2013:

1. Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”
2. Coldplay, “Atlas”
3. how to destroy angels, “Strings and Attractors”
4. M83, “Oblivion (feat. Susanne Sundfør)”
5. Arcade Fire, “Reflektor”
6. Lady Gaga, “Venus”
7. nine inch nails, “Came Back Haunted”
8. Linkin Park and Steve Aoki, “A Light That Never Comes”
9. Lorde, “Buzzcut Season”
10. Phoenix, “Entertainment”
11. Ylvis, “The Fox”
12. Empire of the Sun, “Celebrate”
13. Lady Gaga, “Applause”
14. Kylie Minogue, “Skirt”
15. Avicii, “Hey Brother”
16. Churchill, “Change”
17. Empire of the Sun, “Old Flavours”
18. Giorgio Moroder, “Racer”
19. KT Tunstall, “Made of Glass”
20. Naughty Boy, “LaLaLa (feat. Sam Smith)”
21. Tegan and Sara, “I Was A Fool”
22. Bruno Mars, “Moonshine”
23. Disclosure, “Latch (feat. Sam Smith)”
24. Queens of the Stone Age, “I Sat By The Ocean”
25. Bruno Mars, “Natalie”
26. Drake, “Hold On We’re Going Home”
27. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, “Thrift Shop”
28. Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”
29. OneRepublic, “Counting Stars”/”Preacher”/”Can’t Stop”
30. Kanye West, “I Am A God (feat. God)”/”Black Skinhead”
31. Katy Perry, “Roar”
32. Pitbull and Ke$ha, “Timber”
33. Sara Bareilles, “Brave”
34. Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”
35. Imagine Dragons, “Radioactive”
36. Sebastian Ingrosso & Tommy Trash, “Reload (feat. John Martin)”
37. Selena Gomez, “Come and Get It”
38. Frank Ocean, “Eyes Like Sky”
39. Lana Del Rey, “Summertime Sadness”

Year in Gigs:

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs (with Har Mar Superstar), May 12, 2013, House of Blues
Smushed into the front row by a crowd of surprisingly aggressive and scary young people, I gave into the chaos for the first time in my life.  No panic attack.  No diving for safer waters.  No passive aggressive elbow jabs.  I lost my mind for over an hour, parts of me forever smeared onto my neighbors (and parts of them melded into me).  One of the best shows of my life.  And Karen O held my hand.  I mean, c’mon.  We’re done here.

Karen O is my halfie queen.

2. nine inch nails (with Godspeed You! Black Emperor), October 11, 2013, TD Garden
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of attending a “heavier” show with me, you know I get a little wild.  Whiplash-y, drool-y, oh-my-God-get-away-from-me NUTZ.  Well last time I saw NIN (in Beijing), I reached that peak of utter insanity and have yet to replicate it.  This night was close, but in a section where 99% of the fuckers sat down (SAT DOWN. AT A NIN CONCERT.) it was hard to completely lose it with a straight face.  Alas.  Trent titled the tour “Tension” — which he said refers to the bubbling tension seething underneath the surface of the newfound control that he’s putting on the group — whereas I saw it as “SEXUAL TENSION.”  Everything was funked up — he even has soul sistahs now! — and I wanted to just grind myself into the arena flap-chairs like a horny mongrel.  And they played rarities like “Even Deeper” and “Into The Void.“  Hunh… even deeper into the void…  MY VOID.

We’re so high up you can’t even see Trent. Just that blast of light.

3. Empire of the Sun, September 7, 2013, House of Blues
An utterly blissful experience of smiles and joy.  The crowd was one of the few that did not annoy me once (shocking, considering it was mostly EDM fuckface kids) — not a single time!  And the euphoria was capped off by show-closing “Alive” where we all jumped in unison, smiling at each other, and one guy stopped, turned around to me and gave me a high five.  Fuck yeah.

Empyreans Unite!

4. KT Tunstall, September 25, 2013, Somerville Theater
A girl and her guitar.  That’s all you really need with KT Tunstall.  Crowded into a small, intimate theater (playing Insidious 2 next door…), we enjoyed such a special evening with one of the most underrated, hilarious and embarrassingly talented singers in contemporary music.  I laughed, I cried, I made bird sounds (yes, there was a bird-call contest).

KT is my quarter-Canto goddess.

5. Queens of the Stone Age (with The Kills), December 13, 2013, Agganis Arena
You want a balls out rock and roll show?  Indeed.  There were whiplash guitars, soaring choruses and absolutely crushing riffs.  I’ve waited AGES to see these guys and it was perfect.  A smaller setting might have been nicer, but they’re too big now for little old me.

QOTSA Rocking Your Ass

6. how to destroy angels, April 27, 2013, House of Blues
Trent.  Twice in a year.  Is this real life?!!  For this experimental set — one of only a handful of shows that the band will perform, ever — it was all about the mood, the stage show and the experience of seeing Trent, his wife, and his creative team just bend your mind and melt your brain with ingenuity.  “NIN with female vox” as they are often described.  I was lucky just to be there.

Marital Bliss

7. Alt-J, March 3, 2013, Paradise
Glad I saw them when (and where) I did: they came back 5 months later and played the Bank of America Pavilion.  In this tiny space (one of my all-time faves), they brought their stunning debut to life.  Like how to destroy angels, this was for the experience.  You’ll never get to see them at such an intimate venue ever again.

8. Selena Gomez and Jason Derulo, June 30, 2013, City Hall Plaza
Happy birthday to me!  This was a radio show where we caught a bevy of pop hits in a short amount of (free!) time.  The day was most memorable NOT for Ms. Selenerrrrrr, but for a mid-set crowd panic-rush that brought back terrifying visions of the Marathon bombing.  It was just a giant brawl, but for a moment, we all thought it was something much, much worse.

See you again next year!

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Playlist: Fall Fun

“IT’S NOVEMBER!!!  WHAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!?!?!?!!?????” — me, this morning when I woke up.

Indeed, it is time to change the clocks, lament the death of nature and get our asses ready for the cold, brutal fist of winter to pummel us into the doldrums of S.A.D.  Yay?  At least the music keeps us warm.

The past two months whizzed by and before you know it, it’s time for the Year End Listocalypse.  Let’s get this show on the road.

As I muse over the “Big Picture” of 2013, the most striking theme of the year was soul, beats and humanity filtering their way into the sounds of my favorite artists (see: NIN, Daft Punk, Arcade Fire).  Call it the Let’s Dance Bowie-fication (or, on a lesser scale, the Viva La Vida-ing of a sound).  I’ll blather on about it at the end of December, but I’d just like to make mention here, since most of the songs that follow are full of big beats, big emotion and a lot more humanity than I’m used to at this time of the year.  Here’s what I’ve got for September:

1. Coldplay – “Atlas”
That song from the Catching Fire soundtrack.  Sounds like nothing they’ve ever done before, and yet it’s perfectly Coldplay.  For better or worse.

2. Arcade Fire – “Reflektor”
Is this their best song ever?  Apologies to the “Wake Up” crowd — I’m a Suburbs man, myself — but this is just a 7-minute party with AF, Bowie and James Murphy.

3. Jessie Ware – “Night Light”/”Sweet Talk”/”Imagine It Was Us”
Smooth and cool.  If I had known about this album when it came out last year, it’d be in the Top 10.  It has dominated my past few months.  It fulfills everything I loved and missed about the early ’90s, in my debut-Mariah phase of life.

4. Ylvis – “The Fox”
Yes, seriously.  This is a great song.

5. OneRepublic – “Preacher”/”Can’t Stop”/”Light It Up”
This OneRepublic album…it’s a grower!  No shame!  While Ryan Tedder is one of the best pop writers around today, he still can’t figure out what he wants his band to sound like.  “Preacher” is their Coldplay phase.  This song should be mashed up with “Paradise” because it’s basically the same song.  Then we have some other Top 40 radio rip-offery with “Can’t Stop” and “Light It Up” — which is to say these should ALL be on the radio.  ASAP.

6. BANKS – “This Is What It Feels Like”
If Aaliyah were still alive today (god, how I cried), she’d be making songs like this.  So smooth, so sexy, so awesome.

7. KT Tunstall – “Feel It All”/”Made of Glass”
“Feel It All” is the most uptempo song on her new album of desert twang ballads.  The chorus is a sweeping gorgeous little thing.  Then we have “Made of Glass” which is bar-none one of the greatest songs KT has ever written (whoa, slow down Neil!).  The ending whistle solo with orchestral backup caves my chest in.  One of the highlights of my year.

8. Austra – “Home”
Poor Austra are getting swept by the wayside in this overstuffed year of amazing releases.  This is a highlight from their latest that I keep coming back to.  I’m sure I’ll get better acquainted with this album, but not this year.

9. Savages – “No Face”
This song is fucking brutal.  Claws to the face, thrashing in a sweaty pit, hair-pulled in quasi-sexual physical overexertion.  I want to kick, I want to jump, I want to fuck, I want to spit and scream and shake my face around like I was seizing.  Holy shit, I love this song.

10. Schoolboy Q – “Collard Greens” feat. Kendrick Lamar
I slept on Kendrick Lamar for too long, and I am ashamed.  This kid is the real thing.  Schoolboy is part of his crew and this is his most palatable song (for me).  I can’t get enough from the blippy-bloopy, driving beats.  The rhymes are quote-worthy too.  I’m happy to be interested in rap again.

Album of September: based purely on how much I listened to it on loop, this is most definitely the month of Jessie Ware’s Devotion.  Sure the album didn’t come out this year, but whateverrrrrr it is stunning.  Take me back to 1991!

Now we move on to October.

1. KT Tunstall – “Alchemy”
I saw her at the end of September and it was a revelation.  I’d waited a very long time and she did not disappoint.  This was an unknown track from her setlist — a rare track from a concert-only EP release — and it’s such a delicate piece of beauty, the kind of snowflake track that you’re scared will melt if you play it too loud.  Just…absolute beauty.

2. Sisters of Mercy – “This Corrosion”
Holy shit!  Thank you World’s End end credits!  Thank you Simon Pegg!  If I went through my formative teen years in the 80s, I’d totally be a Sisters of Mercy fan haha, who am I even kidding.  This shit is awesome.  All the doom and gloom of Joy Division and The Cure, but with a nice dance-y dose of Bowie.

3. Lady Gaga – “Venus”
This song was released a few days ago and it’s already jumped up my charts to dethrone everything you see below, songs which had a whole month to spend with me before being unceremoniously flung from their perches by this wacko Sun-Ra-sampling ode to planetary romance.

4. Linkin Park and Steve Aoki – “A Light That Never Comes”
Have you HEARD this song?  It’s a perfect collab — even more appropriate than their Collision Course experiment with Jigga — and it makes me want to to go to a dance party and pretend I’m a little EDM shit.  BANGER.

5. Lorde – “Buzzcut Season”
Yeah I finally caved and now I like “Royals.”  But the rest of the album is great too.  This is my clear standout.  It’s a hypnotizing, insistent groover, perfect for chill-out mixes and emoting with your online friends.

6. Lady Gaga – “Do What You Want” feat. R. Kelly
Read that line again.  Did you ever think you’d see “Gaga” and “R. Kelly” in the same sentence?  I surely did not.  Her Manson collabo-remix made more sense.  But here we are and this song is huge.  You miss The Fame?  Prepare to rejoice, Poker Face.  I think it would fit nicely on Fame Monster though.  It’s R&B Gaga, someone you all missed.  R.Kelly’s verse is perfect.  This is all just so ridiculous it works.

7. Florence and the Machine – “Strangeness and Charm”
Thank you Shazaam.  Thank you Cole Haan outlet store.  This was a bonus track from Ceremonials and I’m ashamed that I didn’t have it already.  It should have been on the final album cut.  It’s huge, a typical Florence wailer.  I love this ginger powerhouse.

8. Kendrick Lamar – “M.A.A.D. City”
As you read above, I’m finally onboard with Kendrick Lamar.  I’ve had this song for over a year but I never listened to it.  Stupid ass Neil.  Makes me miss the glory days of Death Row.  This song makes me drive fast.

9. Miley Cyrus – “Wrecking Ball”
OHHHHH SHIIIIIIIIT, no he DI’INT!  Yes I did…  After a horrible shame spiral that required a lot of emotional support, my sister and I finally succumbed to this fucking song and omg I love to sing it at the top of my lungs.  My stepmom walked in on me the other day, wailing in the kitchen.  I felt like I had just been caught masturbating.  So, much, shame.  But damn it if this song isn’t one of the Top 10 Best Pop Songs of 2013.  Congrats, you misguided little soul.

10. Drake – “Hold On We’re Going Home”
Add this to my shame spiral.  I hate Drake.  But fuckit I LOVE THIS SONG.  I love singing along, I love to pretend I’m smooth.  And I can sing it better than he can haha (hashtag drake you suck).

Album of October: surely this will turn some heads, but sorry, Arcade Fire just released their new album a couple days before the end of the month, so the winner remains Goldfrapp and their Tales of Us.  They had the good sense to release it at a decent time of the month, in time for my rankings.  It’s quiet, introspective.  Let’s put it this way, since you’ll only want this if you’re a Goldfrapp fan: file this under Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree, NOT Black Cherry, Supernature or Head First.  It falls somewhere between Felt and Seventh — no song is as rollicking as the least rollicking on Felt Mountain, and yet no song is as uplifting or carefree as anything on Seventh Tree.

Goldfrapp’s Tales of Us

See you at the end of the year…

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Playlist: Summer Fun//Back To School

Summer sure flew by, didn’t it?  As those languid days bled into each other and stifling heat and humidity gave way to cooler climes, my song consumption also cooled down a bit.  It happens every year: summer is full of bangers, then autumn hits and I’m back to my comfort zone of moody atmospherics, darker content and more introspective experiences.

From the heights of summer fun to its final gasps, let me just track my musical diet so we can move on with autumn and get ready for the final year end blow-out best of’s for this insanely overwhelming and generous year of music.

My song of the summer (Sorry “Get Lucky” and suck it “Blurred Lines”)

 

JULY TOP 10 (as always, by order of playcount)

1. Naughty Boy featuring Sam Smith – “Lalala”
This is one of those magical tracks that drops into your life and changes it forever (melodramaaaaaa….)  But seriously this is such a gorgeously lush dance track with crazy angelic vocals from my new favorite soul-singing white boy.  Get on it if you haven’t heard yet!!!  Seriously, just watch the video NOW.

2. Guy Sebastian featuring Lupe Fiasco – “Battle Scars”
This is an older track that my sister just discovered this summer.  Soaring choruses swapped with rapped verses.  Usually I cherry-pick the choruses and spend the rap verses groaning and rolling my eyes (see: anything with Gym Class Heroes), but this is equally moving and passionate.

3. Disclosure featuring Sam Smith – “Latch”
The second “La-“/Sam Smith song on the list, “Latch” is a hypnotizing dose of ’90s club music set to Smith’s delicious croon-shrieking (boy got range!)  This was huge over the summer, get to catching up if you haven’t heard it yet.

4. Austin Mahone -“What About Love”
This new pop idol looks like the next Bieber but this song is about 110% N’Sync, circa Celebrity.  He even says “Bye bye bye.”  A done deal.

5. The Bullitts featuring Tori Amos – “Wait Until Tomorrow”
This is some movie/music project by the Bullitts.  Of course I am onboard for Tori, but the rest of the soundtrack album is killer.  Features a whole bunch of people (from Lucy Liu and Rosario Dawson to Mos Def).  Also likely to be the only dubstep track featuring Tori.

6. Britney Spears – “Ooh La La”
Did you know there was a Smurfs 2?  Yeah, wtf, right?  This is from that soundtrack.  A classic Britney banger.  Kept our July fresh.

7. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – “Can’t Hold Us”
Some songs are just designed to get you hyped.  This is one of them.  You know it; you’re likely sick of it already.

8. Armin Van Buuren featuring Trevor Guthrie – “This is What It Feels Like”
Pure unadulterated house-techno joy-fest.  Throw them hands up and be happy you’re alive.

9. Mel C featuring Matt Cardle – “Loving You”
I’ll always love my favorite Spice.  Sporty’s solo stuff has always been the best, mostly because she’s the best vocalist from the Spice Force 5.  Paired here with UK X-Factor dreamboy, it’s a power ballad in the vein of James Morrisson/Nelly Furtado “Broken Strings.”

10. Sebastian Ingrosso and Tommy Trash featuring John Martin – “Reload”
Holy shit, there are a lot of “featuring xyz”s on this list, eh?  The summer of the feature, ha!  Genres don’t exist anymore, everyone likes everything.  Alas.  Anyway, here we are, with the 3rd year in a row that John Martin has benefited from his friendship with Ingrosso (2011 had “Save the World” and 2012 had “Don’t Worry Child”, both with Swedish House Mafia).  What a party.

Favorite Album of July:  
Disclosure: Settle — a continuous dance mix straight from 1991, packed with current UK vocal up-and-comers.  Groovy.

AUGUST TOP 10

July bled into August and the above 10 continued to gain spins (holy shit, all that pop and EDM!?!  Isn’t this a fucking rock blog???).  Here are the new additions to the eternal summer playlist.

1. Lady Gaga – “Applause”
If you know me, you know the build-up to this release was a little bit important for me.  After Daft Punk and NIN (ok fine and Arcade Fire), my most anticipated comeback-single-drop was Gaga’s.  I was not disappointed and this song did not stop playing for days.  Holy shit.  She does not disappoint.

2. Zeds Dead – “By Your Side”
Sludgy, chilled-out pseudo-dubstep from the current EDM wave, but I love it because of that angelic female vocal and its kinda-trip-hoppy feel.  This is more my pace.  You can keep your violent drops and molly, thank you!

3. Nine Inch Nails – “Copy of a”
The album is perfect, Trent’s best since 1999’s Fragile.  This is the opening song of the new album, Hesitation Marks, and the 2nd single.  I must say, it makes 1st single (and 2nd song on the album) “Came Back Haunted” a better song.  Jittery, driving and ferocious, but without all that violence and rage of early-day Trent.  Just delicious.

4. Avicii featuring Aloe Blacc – “Wake Me Up”
You’ve all heard it.  It’s on the radio every 5 seconds.  For a brief moment in August, it was still fresh and exhilarating.  It’s still good, but it’s almost played out.  Alas, thank you Avicii for pumping out another life-affirming earworm.

5. David Bowie – “Let’s Dance” (InFiction String Remix)
This soundtracks a car commercial.  And it is amazing.  “Let’s Dance” is one of my favorite Bowie tracks (up in the Top 3 with “China Girl” and “Suffragette City”) and this is one of the few remixes that I love (I’m usually not a fan of remixes).  It’s got that creepy X-Files vibe, some sci-fi M83-type shit.  Once the vocals kick in, it’s just a blast.

6. Depeche Mode – “Should Be Higher”
Off their latest, Delta Machine, this is a slinky sultry nugget that thumps along like a mysterious cloaked version of “Personal Jesus” or anything off Playing the Angel.  After all these decades, they still can make me dance and grind.  So sexy it hurts.

7. Michael Buble – “It’s A Beautiful Day”
I was in Europe for a wedding.  This song was out.  It was a perfect marriage (ha!) in terms of soundtracking a particular moment in time.  he cranks out perfect smile-makers and this one is one of his best.  All hail Buble.

8. Chthonic – “Set Fire To The Island”
The best black metal band from Taiwan has released one of the few black/death metal songs that I can listen to on repeat.  Usually stuff like this is reserved for particularly bad days when I want to smash everything.  It’s pummeling, it’s loud, it’s gorgeous.  Why?  The chorus is drenched with classical Chinese opera instrumentation and operatic vocals.  A fantastic combination.

9. Austra – “What We Done?”
On their sophomore album, Austra have beefed up with atmospherics.  Whereas their debut was a freaky trip through dark creepy tunnel, this one feels more open, more expansive and a lot more lively.  It’s still creepy, but the beats hit harder.  Rather than bobbing our heads in a dimly-lit corner of the room, we’re now dancing on a dimly-lit dancefloor.

10. Katy Perry – “Roar”
This took me some time to get into.  It’s so boring and plain.  Where’s the fun?  But after a while, that overly positive, go-get-em girl! attitude really wore me done.  I like it now, ok ok.  It’s only a matter of weeks before it’s on Glee.

Favorite album of August:
KT TunstallInvisible Empire//Crescent Moon
First half is about her dead dad; second half is about her divorce.  So you know this is going to be a cheerful record.  It’s her most stripped-down yet, almost acoustic in its instrumentation.  It’s also very pretty.  I love the delicacy of it, but my friend said it was “sad music.”  Sure.  But it’s good sad music.  Less lush than Beck’s Sea Change, but maybe in the same spirit.  She has yet to disappoint me.

See you in a month, when the list gets inevitably darker, heavier and moodier.  Fear not, pop-phobes ;P

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Playlist: June 2013

Yep.  It’s June.  The year is half over.

Summer blends together for me; it’s all one giant month.  I listened to one thing almost exclusively this entire month: Empire of the Sun’s sophomore effort, Ice on the Dune.  It is a perfect album.  Absolutely perfect.  How do I gauge whether an album is “absolutely perfect”?  If I don’t skip any songs and keep it on repeat.  It’s so good, I can’t even stand it.

 

What about the other songs that crept in over the month?  Here they are.  Click on this Songbricks link to see/listen to them in order while you’re reading this lovely word vomit (seriously, do it.  I put the playlist together and it will benefit your reading experience.)

1. Groove Armada – “History” (Feat. Will Young)
I haven’t listened to Groove Armada since the ’90s.  This song popped up on our local EDM channel the other month and it was instant love.  I listen to this on repeat, ad nauseam, and am still not sick of it.  Will Young’s insane glass-shattering hyper-falsetto is just divine and that skittering groove gets into my bones.  It’s beautiful.  So damn good.

2. Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive”
First time I heard it, I didn’t like it.  Same for the 2nd and 3rd and…. you get the point.  I can’t stand their other songs and that filtered in to my judgment of this track.  But I can’t deny it anymore.  It’s on the radio all the time and it weaseled its way into my heart.  The pounding drums nail me in the chest every time and it’s a great banger.  The video is pretty awesome too.

3. nine inch nails – “Came Back Haunted”
Of course I love this song.  But before I go hardcore NIN-nerd/apologist on you, I will say it is nowhere near any of Trent’s top output.  It’s a decent track.  Everyone’s gushing that it’s a “return to form,” but to them I say, “Have you listened to anything of theirs since 2005?”  All of Trent’s shit sounds like this now…  this could easily fit onto 2008’s The Slip (with all the blips and synths and same-old-same-old lyrics).  If it found its way onto Year Zero, it’d probably be the best song on that annoyingly boring album.  Anyway, it’s good.  I hope it bodes well for the rest of the album (Hesitation Marks, out 9/3 on Columbia!), though I hope Trent spends more time on developing some soundscapes and atmospheres, instead of this 4-on-the-4-floor stuff.

4. Kylie Minogue – “Skirt”
This song is deceiving.  It starts out really blippy and bloopy, the sound of computers seducing each other.  It’d fit nicely onto Body Language or something.  There’s even some dubstep, because 2013/EDM, bro.  But then there’s a swell….a build-up….an unbearable wait… and then that chorus drops and the galaxy explodes and holy shit this song is fucking amazing.  Everything in life is worth it for that chorus.  Once it drops, all the dubstep becomes bearable.  And then it kicks back in and I can’t even take it anymore.  And that’s why my skirt came down.

5. Empire of the Sun – “Old Flavours”
After hearing about 5 seconds of this track on their outrageously overblown cinematic trailer for the new album, I was almost as excited as when I heard the initial tease of “Get Lucky.”  Yes, I did just say that.  This melody is undeniable and my #1 go-to on this fantastic release.  It kicks of a 4-song chain at the end of the album that is 15 minutes of pure dance bliss.  This song, “Skirt” and “History” have been keeping my goosebumps very busy this summer.

6. Kanye West – “I Am A God (Feat. God)”
Speaking of goosebumps… the 3:03 mark on this track, wherein Kanye is screaming (not dude-yelling, but straight terror-wails), sends chills down my spine every time I hear it.  The track itself is home to my favorite lines on this album (see: croissants) and my favorite “feature” (who can beat GOD? lolz).  The minimal drone makes this one of the most “industrial” tracks on Yeezus, sounding like the spawn of NIN and Human After All-era Daft Punk.  It’s so driving and anxiety-ridden, so when that final screaming release comes in, it feels like you’re breaking down right next to Kanye.

7. Vampire Weekend – “Ya Hey”
God?  Yahweh? Ya Hey.  This is my favorite track off this album.  It’s light, breezy and carries the listener along a pretty tuft of clouds.  The chorus is catchy too; it sounds like the Chipmunks.  I still have trouble getting past their Ivy League douchey image, but props for this awesome song.  It makes me feel happy.

8. Savages – “Husbands”
Here’s where the good feelings go away.  If you want that same anxiety and frantic spasm-inducing frenzy (like when listening to Yeezus), try on these chicks.  Holy crap, this is intense.  It’s Siouxsie meets Joy Division.  After listening to this, I feel invigorated, jittery and in dire need of some anti-anxiety pills.  Whoo!

And that’s it.  “Where’s 9 and 10?!?!” you ask.  Nothing made the cut.  Listen to some Empire of the Sun and check out my Best of 2013 (So Far) list.

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Playlist: May 2013

So yeah, it’s June.  What else can I say… at this rate, I should just type out my Year End Best-Of, because I can’t believe the year is almost half over…

I shall start by getting this out of the way: my Album of the Month for May was Daft Punk‘s latest.  As if it could have been anything else.  It’s on track to be my #1 for the year.  Unless Trent can whip something up before Dec. 31, 2013, it’s a safe bet.  This album is huge.  SPIN described it as a Bob Fosse meets George Lucas space musical.  Pretty much.  My song-by-song review is here.

How about the music?  Well, shit was bumpin‘ this month, likely influenced by Daft Punk.  Interestingly enough, my most plays did not come from iTunes, but from YouTube.  Like all the kids do these days, I was streaming music without downloading.

Desired reaction: @_____@

I watched/listened to the 15-minute animated nightmare teaser for the new Queens of the Stone Age album, …Like Clockwork, well over twenty times.  Over and over and over again.  It’s fantastic.  Credit that fucked up cartoon for making me fall in love with the new record.  It is gorgeous RAWK.  OK, so:

1. Queens of the Stone Age …Like Clockwork short film

2. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”
Just kidding!  But I did break a playcount record and vanquish the 200-play marker (combining iTunes and my iPod, it’s nearing 300).  Dizzam… no but seriously, it was a Daft Punk song.  Just listen to the album already!!!!

2. Daft Punk – “Fragments of Time
This is the one with Todd Edwards, he of “Face to Face” fame.  It’s my favorite track off the album and the moment the soft-rock cheese gives way to a synth/guitar freakout, a la Discovery, my head explodes with happiness every single time.  It’s glorious happy times.

3. Giorgio Moroder – “Racer
Geriatric Italians rock.  This track is for some Google car-racing game (hence the title, duuuuuh) and it is a banger.  If there were more tracks like this on Random Access Memories, the EDM kidz would stop bitching and whining.  It is a hypnotic doozy for the dance floor, the sequel to his 2-pronged attack at a comeback.

4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs“Buried Alive” (feat. Dr. Octagon)
My favorite track off Mosquito (April’s Album of the Month!), this is a wackadoo leftfield song featuring a killer verse from Kool Keith/Doc Ock, my favorite since his appearance on Prodigy’s “Diesel Power” — the best song on Fat of the Land.  It’s a creepy, funky little number, blown apart as soon as Keith drops the first line.  God, this song.

5. The Wanted – “Walks Like Rihanna
So I’m totally going to hipster-claim that I’ve liked The Wanted since I heard this song in Summer ’11.  Yeah, no shame.  This song has the stupidest lyrics ever and the chorus makes me cringe; I hate when songs reference things that plant them FIRMLY in a specific period (most egregious hate-offense for me: New Radicals’ references to Beck, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson… odd that the 3 of them are still around but that little shit is in a gutter).  Anyway, this drivel is very catchy.

6. Thirty Seconds To Mars – “Conquistador
I haven’t liked a 30STM (isn’t that what the kids call them?) since their debut single.  They have a massive international following that boggles me, but hey, kids like overblown, overearnest and trying-to-hard anthems.  So do I.  This song is driving, catchy and fit for massive arenas.  You’ll always be Jordan Catalano to me, kid.

7. Penguin Prison – “Golden Train
I missed this song from 2010… thank you Gap in-store music and Shazam.  It’s funky, it’s playful, it’s catchy.  I was dancing in the clearance section.  Blast this and pretend we’re back in the Off The Wall era.

8. Rihanna “Right Now” (feat. David Guetta)
I love how this “features” David Guetta, as if he didn’t write this song for one of his albums and this is a b-side masquerading as an a-side.  Whatever.  Anyway, it’s typical of the output that Rihanna and Guetta pump out: heavy, fever-sweat inducing hard house (there’s even some dubstep for the kidz) with impulsive youthful lyrics.  Makes you want to dance until you drop…or hump something until you pass out.

9. deadmau5“Professional Griefers” (feat. Gerard Way)
Confession: while I didn’t really like My Chemical Romance, I always had a soft spot for Gerard Way.  He’s got vision, he has passion and he can really shred the vocals.  This sounds like a remix of a MCR song (I mean that to be a good thing).  It’s aggressive and heavy.  I’m usually not a fan of deadmau5 either.  This is just a great case of worlds colliding.

10. Selena Gomez – “Come and Get It
Boy, the inclusion of the Bollywood-style music really elevates this song to something else.  On its own, it is a pretty basic and boring pop track, but I am a sucker for the ethnic sampling.  I will likely be sick of it by the end of the summer, but for the moment, it’s one of the songs that I don’t immediately change on the radio (see: “Mirrors”… groan)

 

Yikes, lots of guilty pleasures on this list!  See you at the end of June…

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Playlist: April 2013

This’ll be easy.

1. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

2. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

3. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

4. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

5. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

6. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

7. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

8. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

9. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

10. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

 

Seriously.  This song is already approaching the 200-mark on my iTunes play count (this is not taking into account my iPod play count, which my Civic can confirm is getting super worn out by this track).  Which is absurd.  No song — NONE — in my iTunes history has ever, EVER neared 200.  Not NIN’s “Hand that Feeds” or “Discipline.”  Not Scissor Sisters’ “Invisible Light.”  Not even previous champ, Gorillaz’ “Stylo”, which was heretofore the reigning repeat champ with a pithy 80- or 90-something.  Ha, Damon, HA.  I was worried my expectations would absolutely crush Daft Punk’s chances at releasing a song that could make me happy (see: The Strokes, Justin Timberlake), and yet they succeeded at releasing the Song of the Year (why even beat around that bush) a full 8 months before the calendar turns ’14.  This song elates me.

But…for the one or two of you in the universe who will ever read this, I suppose the show must go on.  There were other songs I listened to this month.  Sorry for them: NOTHING CAN BEAT DAFT PUNK.  But let’s toss them a bone.

First up, my album of the month is the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mosquito.  It’s a grower, nowhere near as urgent as Fever to Tell, nowhere near as warm as Show Your Bones, and nowhere near as catchy as It’s Blitz.  There’s a lot of slow-building creepiness, with a couple all-out bangers tossed in for those like me with ADD.  It’s really claustrophobic at times, very weird (see: gospel choir, Kool Keith), but it all strangely works.  They never disappoint.

Now, onto the songs…

1. Lana Del Rey – “Summer Wine
Sultry and cool, as Del Rey do.  To me, this is the warm yang to the yin of Nick Cave and Kylie’s insanely dark murder ballad, “Where The Wild Roses Grow.”  It’s a Nancy Sinatra cover, done with Barrie-James O’Neill, the guy she’s currently sleeping with.  Why she didn’t do any songs with singers I’m actually a fan of (see: Ours, Marilyn Manson), this passes the test.

2. M83 – “Oblivion” (Feat. Susanne Sundfør)
This is one of those soundtrack songs that benefits from having seen the movie.  It’s epic as shit.  While the movie is a shameless amalgam of many other sci-fi classics, I still enjoyed the hell out of it.  And when the credits roll, I want to be hit in the head with something cinematic, something grand, something sweeping.  This is perfect.  She sounds like Sia, wailing over a future-throwback track that sounds like aliens recording hymns for an ’80s flick.

3. OneRepublic – “Counting Stars
Ryan Tedder is a little bastard.  I still won’t admit that I enjoy OneRepublic’s music, but he never fails to catch my ear.  This track is driving, like Mumford and Sons strained through Madonna’s “Hung Up” (and by extension, ABBA’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme”).  I’m not embarrassed to say I like it.  Thanks, meimei.

4. Daughter – “Get Lucky
Too good for Daft Punk?  Go kill yourself.  Or listen to this moody cover, which sounds like The xx taking a somber stab at Neil’s Song of the Year.  It’s a great cover, taking the happy-go-lucky vibe of the original, drowning it in pills and self-loathing, then mumbling it out in depressing fashion.  Kudos, you sad kids.

5. Stephen Frost – “Fire and Ice” (Feat. Jessi Coble)
Frosty went pop!  Sell-out!  Naaaaah, I’m just kidding.  This is unabashed pop goodness: a dancefloor-ready track with bold vocals.  It’s ripe for remixing.  Already a hit in the UK (what??????) and on Rdio, it’s an unexpected glimpse of the big time for Lil’ Stevie.  The gays are gonna love this song.

 

 

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Playlist: March 2013

Jeez, another month blew by.  ONE FISCAL QUARTER.  And now we’re a few days into April and I haven’t even updated you on my March listenings yet…  You — all one or two of you, bless your hearts — must have been so anxious to see what I’ve been feeding into my ear tubes.  Fear not, for I have risen.  Let’s go!

[Remember: we’re going for play count here….  No cheating!]

 

1. how to destroy angels – “Strings and Attractors
This song sounds like something off The Fragile (by way of Year Zero), which is alright in my book because The Fragile is secretly my favorite NIN album (sorry, Downward Spiral, you’re still technically the “best”).  I cannot wait to hear this in concert.  House of Blues, 4/27!  Gah!

2. Phoenix – “Entertainment
Argh, conflicted!  Why?  This is the chinkiest-sounding shit I’ve ever heard, and yet…. YET…. it’s so goddamned catchy!  Like, earworm-cannot-be-dislodged-from-brain catchy.  Bound to be in the Top 10 Songs of 2013.  And the video is a ridonkulous, high art homage (yes, I’m calling it an homage) to Korean dramas.  A+, you French bastards.

3. Rihanna – “Lost In Paradise
I know, I’m supposed to be punishing her for going back to Breezy, but no.  I love this song (thank you H&M in-store music, as always). Her “darker” tracks are always my favorites and I’m assuming this is the dark horse of Unapologetic.  Sounds like it’d fit nicely on Rated R (my favorite RiRi album).  Hum along.

4. Bruno Mars – “Moonshine
My favorite track off his latest album (if you remember, my album of February).  As my sister said, “This would be your favorite.”  Totally.  Funky beat, driving rhythm… reminds me of my favorite Alan Parsons Project shit (sorry for this obscure, embarrassing and problematically incorrect point of reference).  It’s cool, it’s catchy.

5. Fall Out Boy – “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)
They’re back!!!!  I didn’t realize how much I missed them (I’m really serious, sue me) or their pretentiously laughable song titles (are we still LiveJournaling, bros?).  This stadium-banger is wielding a killer chorus and it’s just…agh, I miss 2005!  I’m so surprised by my love for this song that I’ll just stop here.  I’m on fiiii-yaaaaaaaah!

6. Usher & Diplo – “Go Missin‘”
I’ve been sitting on this since February.  It’s a slow burner.  So smooth, so hypnotic.  He’s so into the electronic thing these days that it’s no surprise to hear this style song, but without him worrying about filling a dance floor with insane high energy shit, he can utilize that smooth-ass voice of his.  Mmmm mmm, smoove.

7. Alt-J – “Estocada” (aka “Something Good”)
Sorry, Alt-J.  They’re at the butt-end of my 2012 Albums list and, you know what, they should be in the Top 3 or 5, at least.  I saw them in March for the first show of their current US tour.  It was amazing.  This song in particular — already one of my faves off the album — was infused with so much ass-kickery in a live setting that I can’t stop listening to it.  They’re so good and so few people know about them… there’s still time to get into them before you’re accused of bandwagoning.  Get with it!

8. Junip – “Your Life, Your Call
In a year packed full with highly anticipated albums (Strokes, JT, NIN, Daft Punk, Arcade Fire, YYYs), I am so surprised that Junip just popped out of nowhere and into my life.  I cannot wait to hear the rest of this album.  Jose Gonzalez singing without his usual acoustic accompaniment + 2 guys who play instruments = this.  I’ll be damned, but I think I might be more into it that both the new Strokes and JT combined.  Great job, Junip boys.

9. Youngblood Hawke – “We Come Running
This song has been out forever, right?  I’ve heard it on the radio for months, but have just finally let it into my heart.  It’s happy, it’s catchy.  It’s like a lamer version of a fun. anthem mixed with some old pop-punk-emo aesthetic.  It makes me happy.

10. Demi Lovato – “Heart Attack
Damn, girl.  When I first heard it, I was like, “Ugh this is so generic and boring.”  And then I couldn’t get it out of my head (especially that “chorus”!)  So there you have it, I will just embrace this.  The lyrics are dumb, most of the song really is quite generic, but damn… that “ataaaAAAAAaaaAAAAAAK” is money.  Pure money.

And finarry, the latest from Stephen Frost.  This one’s a rocker and *might* be my favorite off his current album project.

Damn.  Looking back on this list — I’m listening to some pretty poppy shit these days!  And you know what?  It’s only going to get worse as the weather gets better.  Every year — without fail — my winters are filled with quiet, profound, introspective, and sometimes dark stuff.  But once the windows can roll down and my limbs can be freed from their fabric-layer prisons, it’s on.  But what about album of the month!?  Wrote about it already.  Yeah, it grew on me.  how to destroy angels.  Go tell your mom about it.

 

 

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Playlist: February 2013

February is a short month, but seriously, this year is pretty much almost over.  So while I prepare for April (at this rate, March is already done), here’s what I was blasting out of my boombox this month.

[Same note as last month: I’m going by iTunes play count, so I can’t be a weasel…]

<> on April 13, 2012 in Indio, California.

1. Frank Ocean – “Eyes Like Sky
Good Lord on high, this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.  These LYRICS.  The soft acoustic number reminds me of something from the early ’90s that would have fit nicely on the “grown up” stations (alongside Des’ree and Tracy Chapman or something).  Don’t let that fool you.  I tear up every time I hear this part:

I said I wish you could see the ocean/He said I wish you could see hope
I said have you ever seen a mountain?/He said no but my faith can move those
I said I wish you could see the stars/
He told me I should see love”

*Neil rips out heart strings* D:

He delivers it with such aching sincerity that I should just stop writing the rest of this list because I haven’t stopped listening to this song for about a week.

2. Taio Cruz – “Higher” (feat. Kylie Minogue)
Anything (ANYTHING) that “features” Kylie Minogue is guaranteed to be good.  Because Kylie Minogue.  (Editor’s note: for all of you hipsters scoffing and rolling your eyes, go listen to “Where the Wild Roses Grow“, her duet with Nick Cave.  And then shut the fuck up.)  It’s upbeat Euro-pop and, even though it came out in 2010, my sister just discovered it and we loves it, precious.  Like Usher, but less skeevy and trying-too-hard.  [Note: the US version has Travie McCoy… hahahahahahahahahaha, I don’t even know what to say to that….]

3. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – “Thrift Shop” (feat. Wanz)
Yeah, Neil finally joined 2013.  I was so resistant to this song for months but then I finally listened to it all the way through (it’s on the radio every few minutes).  The Nate Dogg-ripoff chorus hooked me.  Then I read the lyrics and, after LOL’ing for a while (FYI, R. Kelly’s sheets smell like “pissssssssssssssssssssssss”), I decided that I liked the message (This validates my unabashed love of secondhand shops).  In his defense, I love the throwback early ’90s vibe.  And his other songs are surprisingly thoughtful.  I’ve been schooled.  This is fucking AWWWWSUMMMMMMM.

4. Azealia Banks – “Harlem Shake
I know, I know… just like #3 above, this is racially divisive and played out.  Cry me a river.  Bauuer’s version is pretty boring (I still think that the best of the meme videos improve the song, i.e. the Matt & Kim BESTCONCERTEVERHOLYSHIT); Azealia’s rap gives it a ton of aggressive grit and, frankly, cred.

5. The Pierces – “You’ll Be Mine
This hot sister duo made of my favorite records of ’07, the catchy and witty-as-fuck Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge.  Coldplay’s hot bassist handles instrumentation on the 2011 album that spawned this track (You & I).  It’s not as immature, playful and sarcastic as Thirteen Tales, instead sounding like earnest adult stuff, much in the vein of recent KT Tunstall.

6. Stephen Frost – “All The Lovely Things
Playful.  Cabaret.  Whistling.  Tap-dancing.  FRENCH.  This is the song they played in the saloon from the MJ/McCartney video for “Say, Say, Sayafter Michael, Paul and Linda continued on their quack-journey.  My favorite track so far.  Good job, kid.

7. Justin Timberlake – “Suit and Tie” (feat. Jay-Z)
Hey, did you hear JT is back?  Of course you did.  This was in heavy rotation at the start of the month (I actually liked it!) but it’s getting so played out that I don’t really care anymore.  I’m not even getting tickets for the Legends of Summer throwdown at Fenway.  Whatever.  In regards to this song, I’ll let my mother handle my thoughts:

“Wow, this is so nice!  They need to bring back music like this….  Mmm, nice!”  Continues dancing.  Jay-Z abruptly jumps in.  “No.  Oh no.  Now it’s ruined.  Whyyyyy’d they have to do that?!???”  Stops dancing.

I love Jay, but his verse is so jarring and distracting that it loses me.  T.I. is a perfect compliment to JT.  He should be brought back.

8. Marina and the Diamonds – “E.V.O.L.”
Another clever kiss-off/fuck-you to love.  She is unstoppable.  This b-side would fit nicely on her first album, but it boasts the slick production from her latest.  I had this shit on repeat for days, so I’m not sure why it’s all the way at #8.  It should be at #5.  Blast this one, jilted guys and gals.

9. MS MR – “Bones
“OHMYGOD, IT’S THE GAME OF THRONES SONG!!!!!!”  Thank you, GoT s3 trailer.  This song is gloriously dark and grim.  Bits of Florence.  Bits of Bat for Lashes.  Flourishes of orchestral strings, gut-booming drums and spooky wailing.  So good.  Their EP is only $2.99 on iTunes.  Check it out.

10. Olly Murs – “Troublemaker” (feat. Flo Rida)
Yeah, this isn’t Maroon 5.  I know you thought it was Adam, but you are mistaken.  Being an Olly fan for a couple years now (Murs hipster!), this is a jarring shift from his fun, throwback British Pop (not Britpop) that ranged from Robbie Williams to One Direction to Estelle.  This is clearly THE big grab for the US market.  If you haven’t heard it on the radio yet, you will.  Oh you will.
Album of the Month

January belonged to Tegan and Sara.  Their pop breakthrough is untouchable and beloved by critics, ensuring you’ll be hearing about it until next January when all the 2013 lists come out (this one included).  My February record is from 2012, but I just got it (thanks HEG).  It’s so effortlessly good that it’s criminal.

Bruno Mars – Unorthodox Jukebox
My favorite tracks are “Moonshine,” “Natalie” and “Money Make Her Smile” (the bass line on that track is filthy good).  This album drips throwback, whether it’s of the Michael Jackson variety (“Natalie” is “Dirty Diana”/”Billy Jean” 2013.  The chorus reminds me of this, for some reason) or old fashioned ’50s doo-wop pop rock (“If I Knew“).  It’s all short too, clocking in at less than 40 minutes.  Way to leave us wanting more, Bruno.  It’s split into two personalities: the earnest, less bombastic tracks (“Young Girls“, “When I Was Your Man” and my aforementioned favorites) and then there’s the party-starting jams.  From the ridiculous lyrically-NSFW sexcapades of “Gorilla” and daft funk of “Treasure” to the ubiquitous “Locked Out of Heaven” and the reggae smoke track, “Show Me.”  Like the eponymous machine from the title, this album plays like a selection of greatest hits from decades long passed.  This little guy is awesome.

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Playlist: January 2013

Well that month went by fast, hunh?  2013’s first is already in the bag; 11 to go before this year’s edition of the Year-End music writer/critic/blogger self-love orgy.  To keep tabs on my diet, I’m going to be doing a monthly “Playlist” of songs that are on constant repeat on iTunes.  And since nobody reads this, then surely it’s just for my own record-keeping.  I am so clever.

Let’s kick this off, then.  For honest disclosure’s sake, I chose to arrange songs in order of my iTunes play count.  That way, I won’t be able to weasel all the “cool” stuff on the top of the list and hope that you didn’t make it to the bottom of the rankings to see that I’ve listened to Josh Groban’s new single an insane amount of times.  Tsk, tsk.

[Editor’s Note: these songs aren’t necessarily January 2013 releases; they’re just the ones that Neil’s been listening to non-stop.]

1. The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio

A lush, bittersweet tune, reflecting some of my recent (but not exact) woes of late:  “I still owe money to the money to the money I owe/I never thought about love when I thought about home.”

2. Josh Groban – “Brave

Haha, sue me, I fucking love Josh Groban.  His songs swell with power and allow me to pretend I can sing.  Raising me up since 2003.

3. Churchill – “Change

This track is a fucking banger.  Lil’ bit of Fleetwood Mac, lil’ bit of Lady Antebellum.  Predicted to be a frontrunner in my year-end Top 20.

4. The Strokes – “One Way Trigger

Comeback singles are a bitch when a band tries to switch things up.  Like other songs that threatened to be crushed underneath nutso levels of hype (“Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”, “Madness”, for example), this song turned out to be a grower.  I gave it many spins to prove itself and I’m glad I did.  Can’t stop listening to that falsetto.

5. How To Destroy Angels – “How Long?

The catchiest thing Trent has written since the last NIN album.  The groove is reminiscent of Year Zero, but there’s a distinct air of positivity to it all, likely injected by his wife’s vocals.  So pretty, so hypnotic.

6. Ellie Goulding – “My Blood

It’s hard to pick just one track off this perfect album, but I listen to this (and “Hanging On”) most.  I finally read the lyrics and see it’s about a breakup (damn you, Skrillex!): “And God knows I’m not dying but I bleed now/And God knows it’s the only way to heal now/With all the blood I lost with you/It drowns the love I thought I knew.”  Gaddamn!  Ellie makes injecting heart and soul (and blood) into seemingly cold electronic music.

7. Junip – “Line of Fire

Listen to this NOW.  It’s Jose Gonzalez and his band.  If you don’t know who he is, get into that back catalog (start with In Our Naturethere’s a cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” that is a stunner).  The band bolsters his sound in ways that make me squeal.  It’s positioned at #7 only because I downloaded it today, but I can’t stop listening to it.  Gah!

8. Tegan and Sara – “I Was A Fool

Seriously, thank God they went along with their pop sensibilities and made this fuckitall album of gems.  It’s my January Album of the Month.  This is one of my favorite tracks.  It starts off like an old J-Pop song (Ayu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) but it’s all 80s synth-slow-jam.  They’ll be on the Top Albums of 2013 all over the place.

9. Noisettes – “Let The Music Play

One of my favorite bands.  One of my Top 3 albums from 2009.  This is their latest, Contact, released last year in the UK, yet to have a release date in the US.  Gone is the gritty punk-rock snarl from their debut; they’ve ramped up the pop and R&B throwbacks from Wild Young Hearts into some smart pop perfection.  This song is a good place to begin.

10. Chuckie and Promise Land feat. Amanda Wilson – “Breaking Up” (Bartosz Brenes & Tony Romera Remix)

Kids, I’ve been listening to this so-called “EDM” since before you were born.  That being said, there is no bandwagon to jump on.  If it makes me want to dance, I’m in.  If it fools me into believing that I can handle dancing from dusk til dawn without destroying my knees and back (old!), then it has to be good.  This song is HUUUUUUUUUUGE and makes me miss the good old dancing days in Shanghai.  Likely locked-in to be my favorite dance song of 2013.  We shall see; it’s a bit early.

Other tracks making the rounds that may rise or fall in the February rankings:
Santigold, “Disparate Youth” – the most pop-accessible track off her list-toppling 2012 album
Frank Ocean, “Wise Man” – achingly beautiful track that was dumped from the Django Unchained soundtrack.
Neon Trees, “Hooray for Hollywood” – driving, high-energy pop-infused rock with a huge oh-ooh-whoa chorus.
Jewel and Kelly Clarkson, “Foolish Games” – update of the ’90s classic into a crushing duet that we didn’t know we needed so badly… just wait until Kelly Clarkson hops in.  It’s like that moment I always talk about in “Lady Marmalade”: when Xtina swoops in and steals the entire show with a killer run.
Metisse, “Boom Boom Ba” – unofficial theme to an old canceled show (Dead Like Me), Buddha Lounge-y trip hop preciousness.
The Knife, “Full of Fire” – fuck a duck, this song is brutal.  More industrial-NIN than they’ve ever been, it’s 9+ (!!!) minutes of head banging dance music.

 
And last but definitely not least, my good pal, Stephen Frost, with his new single, “Age of Gold.”  There’s a little Sean Lennon in there, some classic old-fashioned-y pop.  I’m just waiting for some Phil Spector Wall of Sound production to make it a classic.

 

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